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Dubie suggests greater role for Stafford Center

RUTLAND Local business, government and education leaders gathered at a special luncheon meeting at the Stafford Technical Center in Rutland Oct. 17. Guest speaker Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie answered questions from the audience about various business, education and environmental concerns affecting Vermonts economy. Before the meeting, Dubie toured the award-winning vocational-technical school located next to Rutland High School. He later praised the school for its innovative programs, hardworking faculty, staff and students, and its mission of career education that prepares students for skilled jobs. At the gathering, Dubie suggested off the cuff that the school might also play a future role in solving nagging state problems, such as developing new pre-fab technology for highway bridge construction. Such a technology, perhaps funded by state and industry, could help shore-up Vermonts crumbling bridge infrastructure. Dubie lamented what he termed a disconnect between Vermont youth and the exciting things he sees happening in the state. It was a veiled reference to Vermonts out-migration of young residents as the state becomes one of the nations oldest states in terms of population demographics. While Dubie said young people are a vital human resource in the state, he also said an older population is a valuable human resource, too. Employers need to change the paradigm that pushes older workers out the door, he said. The idea is that were living and working longer so the new paradigm for us aging baby boomers is becoming: Educate, work, refresh; educate, work, refresh, etc. Employers must recognize this paradigm shift. Dubie said that with older employees comes wisdom and experience resources Vermont employers need to compete in the international marketplace. The lieutenant governor next cited his pet Green Valley Initiative (GVI) which aims to develop and establish Vermonts leading role in environmental goods and services. Some critics of Vermonts environmental boasting say that one of the reasons why the state remains so green is because the state is able to import nearly everything and produce nothing of consequence. Being green, according to a 2004 Middlebury College Senior Seminar report, is more a matter of image than of economic reality. Dubie is trying to change the perceptions of critics. He noted how even traditional, established businesses in the state are leading the way, in their respective industries, to create greener products that are in the marketplace. Dubie, a commercial and military jet pilot, is especially excited about green technology being developed by Vermonts aerospace community. For example, General Electric in Rutland is working on the cutting edge GEnx jet engine that is quieter and cleaner; it will dramatically reduce emissions in jet travel, he said. The GEnx engine is being developed for the new U.S. Boeing 787 and European Airbus A350 aircraft and will help lower the cost of air travel in the near future. Dubie also cited a new technology home-appliance battery being developed in Vermont. Energizer in Manchester, Vt., is producing a revolutionary mercury free button battery, he said. Dubie said the Douglas administration was key in saving Energizers Vermont operation after the state legislature had planned to send a stern message by threatening the company for its hazardous battery production. We saved 200-plus jobs in Vermont, Dubie said about the Energizer plant. We need to work with business in the state. Our economy relies on healthy business and industry. Dubie then praised Casella Waste Management for becoming a recycling leader in New England. The company has helped in significantly reducing the waste stream in the region. Regarding in-state energy matters, the lieutenant governor said hed like to see a mix of domestic and imported energy sources as well as an expansion of natural gas as a winter heating source in Vermont. As drilling technology improves, he said, the U.S. and Canada are now able to tap into vast new reservoirs of clean-burning natural gas. Dubie concluded his energy comments by proposing that a natural gas pipeline be extended from Burlington to Rutland.

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